I don't know how else to launch right in and make a fool of myself but than to do it... here's the situation...
I live in Colorado. The Front Range in Colorado Springs. Essentially high altitude but rather temperate climate. I have a small lawn. Correction. I have a small set of square feet that could be a lawn. 5 years ago I mulched the 400 square feet, planted grass seed, watered it, and it grew. Then I managed to burn it with commercial fertilizer.
Then... I tried to apply further grass seed by applying patches. I now have probably 5 different kinds of grass in this little plot. 1/3rd of it is in shadow and is barely alive. The other 2/3rds is grass meant for shade and is burned. I basically have a failed multi faceted grass area that could pass for the dark side of the moon.
I have tried fertilizing it with evil commercial fertilizer. I have watered the hell out of it on the advice of a neighbor who cares for lawns. The soil is part Pikes Peak front range clay and while I mixed in many bags of top soil, unless I go at it again and mulch the holy heck out of it, try to add more top soil, commercially fertilize the bejeepers out of it, and waster more water, I do not have and do not want that kind of green thumb.
I am in a word... fed up. I DO NOT want a lawn. I don't want it because I do not want the commercial relationships to fertilizer companies. I do not want a lawn because I can't seem to do it. I don't want a lawn because even tho it is a small plot, like 400 sq feet, it ain't working I believe due to the soil, the partial shade and partial direct sun, and because I have likely willed it to not work.
So after all that whining... what I REALLY want to do is plant something that will grow like a weed. Across the street is what the neighbor calls catnip tho I broke some off, showed it to our cats and they went running because they hated the scent. Regardless, it seems to just grow.
What I am looking for is something I can just plant, water, apply some organic fertilizing effort, and have it grow. And now be grass. I don't want to get into some kind of exotic Xeriscaping. I obviously don't have a green thumb. I also don't care to have a green lawn like the Smiths and the Jones. What I really want is something to take off, like a weed, but not be ugly or offensive like broadleaf or similar.
So after all that... can anyone advise someone with a bad attitude but willing to give it a go on how to plant something that will take over what used to be a small lawn? My neighbor to the right has some very nice xeriscaping, and a lot of work. My neighbor to the left has a lawn that is not much better than mine, and puts in a lot of work, for what? A neighbor two doors down spent $1500 for a similar area to have her 400 sq feet sodded, and the damn thing is already failing. What is the point of that? My point is, without a tremendous amount of effort and kowtowing to the commercial fertilizer and antiweed chemicals gods, why? I just cannot go that way anymore.
Help? What can I put into the ground, and I am more than willing to mulch again, mix in soil and nutrients, and water the hell out of it... but something that would grow like a weed, and not be a lawn. If I could grow interesting looking tumbleweed I would be all for it. I am looking for advise to do something interesting with this 400 sq feet that is NOT grass. And not sophisticated xeriscaping.